Babysitters for Tweens and Teens? 6 Tips to Get the Best Sitter

At what age do you let your child stop staying with a babysitter and start becoming one? And, if the younger kids still need a babysitter, how do you find a really really great babysitter?

I am an expert in babysitters.  Here are my credentials:

1)    I read every single Babysitters Club book…twice!
2)    I started babysitting when I was 7, at the birth of my younger sister.
3)    I then babysat even more with my second sister 4 years later
4)    I entered the professional world of babysitting when I was 14 for our neighbors
5)    I practically have a degree in babysitting when I babysat through college
6)    I get and respond to at least 20 emails a week from readers about babysitters

I am so just kidding, I do not think you can be an expert on babysitting, but I do think there are some tips to share:

1. Pretend Your Teen Doesn’t Need Them

By 16, I was a babysitter myself and I hated when my parents hired someone when they went to the movies to ‘watch us.’ For the reasons below, I explain why support staff can be great, but first you need to make sure your kid does not hate you for bringing them over. Always tell teens and kids that the babysitter is there for some other reason. Start with:

“I totally trust you, and know you can take care of yourself, so I hired ____ because…

your little sibling needs extra help and I didn’t want you to have to watch them.”

I am doing it as a favor, this girl needs some extra money for college loans, you know how it is.”

I am expecting a few important phone calls and want he/she to be here to get them and don’t want to bother you with it.”

I need he/she to watch the house/plants/dogs/neighbors yard.”

he/she is also going to show you some really cool things online/tricks to study/ how to get your homework done quicker.”

Really, anything other than “You need to be watched.”

2. They Can Be Teachers

Notice how I said above “show you how to get homework done quicker, tricks to study.” I always say this instead of “time management, study skills and organization”–but that is basically what it is. I think support staff, whether they are babysitters, tutors, coaches or nannies always have something to offer whether it is Spanish lessons, organizational habits or how to use the Internet safely.

3. They Can Be Mentors

I think all teenagers need someone in their lives (other than you) who they can go to if they need help or advice. I know I have talked about this before, but the role model figures I had in High School were my dance teacher and a babysitter. I so admired them and they taught me things I never would have listened to my parents about like how to take care of my body, how to stand my ground with boys and even how to dress. My parents told me all of these things, but I never listened because I felt they were so far from my own reality. Yet, these support staff members were closer in age (and in my mind, much, much cooler).

4. They Can Be Your Back-Up

Lets be honest, we hear from you and our teachers all the time, so we totally tune you out. When I used to babysit, and even now with my private clients, parents will ask me to gently push one of their points when I am hanging out with their kid. For example:

Mom: “Vanessa, when you are doing study skills with Erin today, would you mind also talking to her about procrastination and even though it is ok now, it doesn’t work later?”

<In Erin’s bedroom looking at her backpack and study materials, talking about bad teachers>

Vanessa: “ugh, you know once I had this horrible history teacher, she was so unfair, anyway she assigned tons of homework and it was never that hard so I waited to do it until the night before–you know that is how it stays really fresh in your mind…”

Erin: “Oh ya me too, I do that too!”

Vanessa: “Ya, well this time it got me in big trouble because….”

This way it feels more relatable and not so nerdy to stop procrastinating. Parents can use support staff to portray a lot of ideas that kids normally tune out.

5. Go with a Service

There are some pros and cons with services, recently I have been really swayed by the successes of services like Sittercity.

-You have a contract and protection
-They do background checks
-They come trained
-They know activities
-They clean the dishes (usually)
-They can do learning too
-They are not that expensive
-They are gaurenteed

Be careful of:

-Testing them out with you home
-Use one a friend has had
-Talk to them on the phone ahead of time
-Have a few as back-ups just in case

I actually recommend setting up an account and looking around just in case.  You never know when you will need one, and it is always good to have something like that already set-up, where you are already know the lay of the land in a last minute emergency.

4 Responses to “Babysitters for Tweens and Teens? 6 Tips to Get the Best Sitter”

  1. CristiBee
    June 4, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    I think a lot of parents would agree that we do want to limit our tween’s stress and frustration. Some would say, just growing up can be hard enough. I agree strongly with the writer. If a parent can just learn to phrase things differently and think outside the box, things could be a lot better in the house. Nice post. Very helpful.

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    June 9, 2009 at 6:48 pm #

    Thanks and of course, thanks so much for reading,


  3. Bri Hocking
    January 23, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    I am indeed a tween and I babysit forMolly Whitecotton, a friend of my aunts, with two daughters, Mikayla and Katy Grace. Katy Grace being the oldest helps me a lot with her sister. She is so cute! She is like a little mommy. Her sister, however, being still small misses her mommy when she has exited the room. I don’t really… babysit. I’m more of a Mother’s Helper. My dream is to babysit the girls (and possibly another one!!) by the time I am in … 9th grade. I think if tweens such as myself have been doing well in their studies, and display a great deal of responsibility, they should indeed be allowed to babysit. If the grades slip, sorry but with great responsibility, you must take the responsibility to say,”You know, these (however many days, weeks, months, years) have been great but my grades are slipping and until I can get them back up, I will have to excuse myself of my duties,”


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